Developing Your Brand: Who Are You?
Your personal brand is remarkably similar in a lot of ways to a corporate brand. “Just Do It”; “Coke is The Real Thing”; “The Happiest Place in the World” are the brands of massive corporate entities, but be honest – couldn’t they apply to an individual just as well? Are you the real thing, a person of action who just does it and does so from a happy place?
That certainly describes me, but does that make it my personal brand? No, and here’s the why and how: A personal brand is who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values. But you need to communicate your value to your audience or target market to stand out from your competition – a unique identity.
In a nutshell, ‘personal branding’ is your story – and without that story, you have lost at least half of your audience who simply will not care and move onto something moving.
How to Develop Your Brand:
What is your story? Have you ever written out your mission in life? Ever even thought about it? First thing to do is decide what your core message is and when you’re satisfied with that – then stick to it. It’s not easy being genuine when developing your brand, but it is critical most of all because of how easy it will be down the road to manage and promote that brand on a daily, or even hourly, basis. It’s like that old adage about the problem with telling lies: You have to remember them all. You don’t have to remember the truth.
Like a stand-up comic developing his or her personal ‘voice’ in order to move to the next level, anyone pursuing creative endeavors needs to fail. Don’t be afraid of failing. Baseball players who fail two-thirds of the time end up in the hall of fame. The top salespeople in any organization are the ones who fail the most – simply because they’re working harder than the rest. More failure simply means you are that much closer to success than your competition. Or as my father would state it; “If you don’t have any unhappy customers – you’re probably not doing much in life..”
Which is not to say you want to head out for failure – just do not be afraid of it.
The advent of failure – especially when you are young – is never as frightening as not trying. Read the poem; “If” by Rudyard Kipling – if you want it summed up for you; “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”
At the core of you are your values and they pretty much control and decide your priorities in life. Be honest now, what are they? Here’s a hint: When the bullet hits the bone and you are up against a difficult decision, you can bet you’ll rely and implement the answers based mostly on your deepest held values. I know, yikes.
These values should form the core of your brand and as you develop your story, you’ll also rely and implement your brand decisions on your convictions. Prioritizing your values will help you figure out your vision of your brand and again, be honest – you don’t want to constantly have to remember the bullshit you laid on yourself in the beginning.
Although they intermix with your values, your passions can be very different and in order to develop your personal brand, you almost have to identify your passions – both personal and professional. Do you love dogs? Technology? Jazz music? It’s all part of your story, and therefore – your personal brand.
“Where do you want to be in five, or ten years?” That’s actually a question I can answer for you, although it sounds cliché – you will be exactly where you want to be. You determine this – and I don’t care how people are enabled to believe so otherwise. It’s on you, my friend and getting your brand together is going to help with your career path – trust me.
What is it about you that helps you stand out from the rest of the wannabes? Your personal, unique traits and skills shape the answer to that question.
Okay – let’s get practical – step-by-step stuff:
Figure out who the hell you are:
Be introspective and create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself:
- In which areas of work do I excel?
- What motivates me?
- What characteristics have others complimented me on?
- Which projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?
- Which roles seem to drain my energy?
- Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you’re struggling to answer these questions, ask friends, family, and co-workers how they would describe you. Once you’re more aware of the different facets of your personality, you can decide how best to brand them.
Keep in mind that many people struggle to choose a specific niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. Realize that your personal brand, like many corporate brands, will change as your career grows. The best strategy is to choose a particular area you’d like to focus on and let it evolve over time.
What do you WANT to be known for?
Your personal brand is more than a reflection of who you are today; it’s a roadmap of where you to go. In addition to understanding your existing skills and competencies, Gresh suggests assessing your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to whichever industry or career you want to break into next.
By doing this, you’ll uncover the skills and traits that make you distinct, as well as the areas where you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Forecasting where you want to be in five or 10 years—and the attributes you want to be known for—can help you better determine what steps you need to take in order to get there.
Define your audience
Before you start crafting your personal brand, you also need to determine who you’re trying to reach. Is it other industry thought leaders? An individual at a particular company? Agents? The sooner you define the audience, the easier it will be to craft your story, because you’ll better understand the type of story you need to tell.
On the other hand, if you are a graphic designer trying to impress existing clientele and attract new customers, you might choose to tell your story via a personal website or portfolio, where you can better express your wide range of talents.
Research your desired industry and keep tabs on the most successful
As you start mapping out the careers you want, Gresh recommends compiling research on experts in those roles.
“Find out who the thought leaders are in whatever field you’re interested in, and don’t just follow them,” he says. “Go online and find out if they have blogs, or where they contribute their thinking. Look for people who are successful and examine what they’re doing. Imitate them, and then do one better.”
In building a personal brand, your goal is to stand out—but you can’t rise to the top without taking inventory of who’s already there.
Write an “Elevator Pitch”
As you begin to conceptualize your personal brand, spend some time crafting an elevator pitch—a 30- to 60-second story about who you are. Whether you’re attending a networking event or an informal party, having an elevator pitch prepared makes it easy to describe succinctly what you do and where you’re going (or would like to go) in your career.
Keep your elevator pitch brief by focusing on a few key points you want to emphasize. This could include that you’re looking for a new position, have strengths in a particular niche, or recently increased the value of your current department or company.
Network Like Crazy
As you cultivate your ideal personal brand, it’s important to network regularly (and effectively) to grow your professional circle. Connect with peers and industry thought-leaders by going to formal and informal networking events.
The more connections you make—and the more value you can provide in your interactions—the more likely it is your personal brand will be recognized. And, considering 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking, regularly attending these events will help you not only build your brand, but potentially advance your career, too.
At these events, don’t be shy about asking fellow attendees to meet again for an informational interview or a casual coffee chat.
Ask people what they think about you
This one’s tough.
Having current and former colleagues and managers endorse you is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand, allowing others to communicate your value for you. Just as a business might cultivate customer reviews and testimonials for use in sales and marketing collateral, you too should cultivate your own reviews in the form of recommendations.
Grow your online presence
With so many different social media tools available today, your online presence will likely look different depending on the medium you choose. While your story should match across all platforms, once you know where your targeted audience is most likely to turn, you can redouble your efforts in telling your best story there.
Additionally, if you want one of your sites or profiles to be exclusively for friends and family, adjust your privacy settings to ensure that potential employers don’t stumble upon any information that could potentially harm your chances of landing a job. Here are some platform-specific tips to help you effectively craft your personal brand online.
Along the way:
I also feel compelled to say please be happy. Don’t forget to smell the roses. Got it? Okay – back to developing your brand..
About the critics – there will always be many who will tear you down for nothing more than the sheer pleasure they derive from doing so. I could give you a long lecture about how critics are nothing more than wanna-bes, jealous of your daring – but I’ll just say this: Fuck Them. Done. Movin’ on..